What to Do After a Car Accident?
May 30, 2022
Car accidents are one of those things you just do not want to think about. But the harsh reality is that car accidents happen daily, including to people we know and love.
After a car accident, your decisions can directly affect your life moving forward. That is why knowing what to do after a car accident is crucial.
If you or someone you love has suffered an injury from a car accident, contact a Grand Rapids car accident attorney to find out how you can protect your rights.
Six steps to take after a car accident
Recent data reports approximately six million automobile accidents annually in the United States. Of these, 6 percent result in a fatality, 27 percent have non-fatal injuries, and 72 percent include property damage. After an accident, hire a lawyer to protect your rights.
If someone else’s actions or negligence caused the accident, you might have a legal claim for financial damages. The amount of any settlement or judgment you may receive will depend largely on the steps you take following an accident. Here are six steps you need to take after a car accident.
Stay calm and stay focused.
It is natural to feel bombarded with emotions after an accident. Anxiety, anger, confusion—these are all normal feelings. However, control your emotions. Do not lash out, do not throw blame, and do not panic.
Immediately following a collision, move to safety. While the law requires you to stay at the accident scene, safely move your vehicle out of traffic if possible. After you move your vehicle, check for any other threats that might pose an immediate danger.
- Fire or potential gas leaks
- Falling debris
- Blind curves or hills
Once you have surveyed the scene, check your passengers and the other vehicle for any signs of injury. If anyone needs immediate care, call 911.
Talk to the other driver.
Exchange insurance information after an accident so you can file a claim and recover damages. Additionally, you must provide your information to the other driver, even if you were not at fault. Be sure to get all necessary information, as it may be difficult or impossible to obtain after the fact.
At a minimum, record:
- The driver’s name and phone number
- The name of their insurance company
- The insurance policy number
- The contact information for the insurance company
- The name of their employer if they were on the job
Other helpful information includes:
- The driver’s address
- The driver’s license number
- The make and model of the other driver’s vehicle
- The name and contact information for any passengers in the other vehicle
Document the accident.
You never know how a car accident case is going to play out. Even if it is clear to you what happened and who was at fault, you do not know what the other party will say or do. So, it is essential to protect yourself. The best way to do this is to collect evidence. Think of what you would need to recreate the scene.
One of the best things you can do is take pictures. Take pictures of your vehicle, the other driver’s vehicle, and any property damage. Do not forget to get pictures of the full vehicle, not just damaged areas but the other driver’s license plate. Talk to witnesses and get their contact information. Your attorney or the insurance company may want to talk to them if you disagree about the events leading up to and after the accident.
Obtain medical care.
Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries and the leading cause of traumatic brain injuries requiring hospitalization. Even if you feel fine after a car accident, seek medical attention. Spinal cord injuries and traumatic brain injuries may not present symptoms right away, and early treatment may help prevent permanent injury.
After an accident, a doctor can review your symptoms and do a thorough examination. After a serious event such as an accident, it is better to be over-cautious than not take appropriate action and end up with more serious injuries.
After your initial appointment, you need to attend any follow-up care. Not only is follow-up care an important part of your recovery, but it will also become a key part of your car accident case if you decide to take legal action. As you attend your appointments, keep a record of where you go, who you see, and any referrals or prescriptions ordered.
Speak to an experienced car accident attorney.
If you were ever in a car accident, resist the instinct to contact the insurance company after an accident. Instead, speak to a qualified legal professional.
Personal injury law allows victims who suffer an injury after an accident to recover financial damages if that accident was someone else’s fault. While you can do this directly through the insurance company, in most cases, you will not receive the full value of what your case is worth.
Insurance companies are in the business of making money. These are multi-billion dollar companies. This means you want an advocate by your side who can defend your rights and help you fight for a reasonable and just settlement.
Stick to your state’s statute of limitations.
In any legal matter, there is generally a statute of limitations. This is the amount of time you have to take legal action. For car accidents, the statute of limitations begins the day of the accident, not the day you discover your injuries or the day you report the accident. If the statute of limitations expires, you forfeit your right to make a legal claim.
Each state determines its statute of limitations. In Michigan, the statute of limitations for car accidents and other personal injury matters is three years. If you believe the statute of limitations has passed in your case, it may still be a good idea to contact an experienced car accident attorney. In some cases, the court may allow an exception.
Reasons for this exception may include:
- The victim was a minor
- You are unable to find the defendant
- You believe there was a fraud
Four things to avoid after a car accident
While there are certain things you should do after an accident, at the same time, there are things you should not do. Here are our top four:
Do not admit fault.
It is easy to get caught up after an accident and say “I’m sorry” or even look for things you could have done to prevent the accident. This is the worst thing you can do after a car accident. Even if you are not 100 percent who was at fault, do not take any blame. It may even be best not to talk to the other driver outside of exchanging information.
After an accident, the insurance company will look for ways to get out of paying you. This includes blaming you. If you say “I’m sorry” or “I’m not sure what happened,” the other party will repeat this to the insurance company.
Of course, this is not saying you should lie about an accident that is your fault, but it is saying now is the time to protect your interest. Do not let the insurance company blame you for an accident that was not your fault.
Do not agree to roadside deals.
Anybody knows that an at-fault accident can greatly impact your insurance rates. So it may be no surprise that some at-fault drivers offer cash to keep the accident off the records. This practice is not illegal. However, it is almost surely not in your best interest.
Avoid a cash payoff after an accident because:
- You are relying on the word of a stranger: Chances are, the other driver does not have the cash they are willing to pay on you. That means you are either taking a check or relying on their word that they will pay you. You have no means to determine whether this person is trustworthy and if you will ever receive any money.
- Your car damages may be greater than they seem: Sure, the cash the other party is offering may seem like enough to cover your repairs, but have you got an actual quote? Did a mechanic inspect your car for damage? If you later discover the damage is worth more than you initially thought, you are out of luck.
- You sustained worse injuries than they first appeared: The other person’s offer might cover the cost of the repairs to your vehicle. But what happens when your neck begins to hurt? Or do you have to go to the ER with a splitting headache? Signs of an injury can take days to appear. You want to know you are covered if you need to go to the doctor or take time off from work.
Do not sign anything without talking to a lawyer.
Insurance companies like working with claimants without lawyers. It means they can try any tactic in the book with no accountability. If they make you an offer, it’s for less than you deserve. Why? Because they know they can get away with it.
If you receive an offer from the insurance company before you ask for it, or it seems like a lot this is a big red flag. Insurance companies look for ways to pay you less, so if they offer money, they know you have a case.
Do not sign anything from the insurance company or agree to a settlement without first talking to a car accident lawyer. An experienced car accident attorney can review your case, tell you if the offer is fair, and guide you through the next steps.
Do not post about your accident on social media.
Yes, the insurance companies will look at your social media. Yes, they will use your pictures and your words against you. Do not post pictures of the accident. Do not talk about your “bad wreck” or other driver’s actions. Do not discuss the accident on social media at all.
Once again, the insurance company will always look for a way to get out of paying you. They will look at your Facebook, Instagram, or other social media accounts.
Further, watch what you post in general and set all of your accounts to private. The insurance company will look for evidence that your injuries are not what you claim or that your injury predated the accident.
Protect your rights after an accident
When dealing with an accident, take care of yourself. Now is the time to protect your physical, emotional, and financial well-being.
Accidents can be overwhelming, and it is not something you should do alone.
If you need help or have questions after a car accident, contact an experienced car accident attorney.